Northumbrian Water has been ordered to pay £33,600 in fines and costs for three pollution incidents.
The company admitted to one charge of causing a discharge of untreated sewage into Smithy Burn at Broomley on 19th August 2016.
Two other similar offences were also taken into consideration as part of the case on 23rd July 2018 following unpermitted discharges of sewage effluent on 26th June 2015 at Summerhouse Killerby Sewage Treatment Works (STW), both near Darlington.
The Environment Agency said the pollution at Broomley originated from a storm overflow channel, allowing rainwater and sewage effluent to bypass a sewage treatment works in times of heavy rainfall, to avoid the works’ capacity to exceed.
However, storm overflows should be incorporated into the environmental permit for them to be lawful.
Fiona Morris, Area Environment Manager said: “The incident at Broomley had a significant impact on the ecology of Smithy Burn. This case demonstrates how important it is that water companies and wider regulated industries understand and comply with the conditions by which they are permitted to operate.”
At Summerhouse and Killerby STWs, the Environment Agency’s inspections found both to be in a poor state of repair with faulty equipment.
Northumbrian Water said it is “committed to minimising the environmental impact” of its assets and activities and takes pollution incidents “very seriously”.
Wastewater Director, Richard Warneford added: “Since 2015, we have invested more than £230,000 across our Broomley, Summerhouse and Killerby sewage treatment works to improve processes and increase capacity. We have improved other infrastructure across the region, installing telemetry monitoring to show how our works are performing and allowing us to react quickly and effectively, to any equipment failures.
“We’ve taken appropriate disciplinary action and also invested heavily in training our employees who visit these sites too. All of the above actions have significantly reduced the number of pollution incidents over the last two years, achieving an industry leading pollution performance in 2017.”